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Lyndon B. Johnson: Special Message to the Congress Recommending a 12-Point Program for America's Children and Youth
Lyndon B. Johnson
39 - Special Message to the Congress Recommending a 12-Point Program for America's Children and Youth
February 8, 1967
Public Papers of the Presidents
Lyndon B. Johnson<br>1967: Book I
Lyndon B. Johnson
1967: Book I
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To the Congress of the United States:

In 1905, this nation hummed with industrial growth--and Jane Addams discovered a boy of five working for a living by night in a cotton mill.

Thirteen percent of the laborers then in the cotton trade were child laborers. All across the nation, in glass factories, in mines, in canneries and on the streets, more than two million children under 16 worked--full time.

Slowly, what Theodore Roosevelt called "public sentiment, with its corrective power" stirred and raised a cry for action.

"The interests of this nation," President Roosevelt declared to Congress in 1909, "are involved in the welfare of children no less than in our great national affairs."

By 1912, the Federal Children's Bureau was established. The long battle to end child labor moved toward victory. Congress had pledged its power to the care and protection of America's young people.

Upon that pledge, the Congress, the Executive Branch and the states have built public policy--and public programs--ever since.

In the past three years, I have recommended and you in the Congress have enacted legislation that has done more for our young people than in any other period in history:

--Head Start and other preschool programs are providing learning and health care to more than two million children.

--The Elementary and Secondary Education Act is improving the education of more than seven million poor children.

--Our Higher Education Programs support more than one million students in college--students who might otherwise not have been able to go.

--The Neighborhood Youth Corps, the Job Corps and an expanded Manpower Development and Training Program are bringing skills to almost one million young Americans who only a few years ago would have been condemned to the ranks of the unemployed.

--The "Medicaid" program is now extending better medical service to millions of poor children.

In fiscal 1960, the Federal Government invested about $3.5 billion in America's children and youth. In fiscal 1965 that investment rose to $7.3 billion. In fiscal 1968 it will increase to over $11.5 billion--more than three times the amount the government was spending 8 years ago.

We are a young Nation. Nearly half our people are 25 or under--and much of the courage and vitality that bless this land are the gift of young citizens.

The Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia, the Teacher Corps volunteer in a Chicago slum, the young Marine offering up his courage-and his life--in Vietnam: these are the Boy Scouts, the 4-H Club members, the high school athletes of only a few years ago. What they are able to offer the world as citizens depends on what their Nation offered them as youngsters.

Knowing this, we seek to strengthen American families. We also seek to strengthen our alliance with state and local governments. The future of many of our children depends on the work of local pub-lie health services, school boards, the local child welfare agencies and local community action agencies.

Recent studies confirm what we have long suspected. In education, in health, in all of human development, the early years are the critical years. Ignorance, ill health, personality disorder--these are disabilities often contracted in childhood: afflictions which linger to cripple the man and damage the next generation.

Our nation must rid itself of this bitter inheritance. Our goal must be clear--to give every child the chance to fulfill his promise.

Much remains to be done to move toward this goal. Today, no less than in the early years of this century, America has an urgent job to do for its young.

Even during these years of unparalleled prosperity:

--5.5 million children under six, and 9 million more under 17, live in families too poor to feed and house them adequately.

--This year one million babies, one in every four, will be born to mothers who receive little or no obstetric care.

--More than four million children will suffer physical handicaps and another two million will fall victim to preventable accidents or disease.

--One million young Americans, most of them from poor families, will drop out of school this year--many to join the unhappy legion of the unemployed.

--One in every six young men under 18 will be taken to juvenile court for at least one offense this year. Our nation can help to cure these social ills if once again, as in the past, we pledge our continuing stewardship of our greatest wealth--our young people.

I recommend a 12-point program for the children and youth of America. With the help of the Congress, we can:

1. Preserve the hope and opportunity of Head Start by a "Follow-Through" program in the early grades.

2. Strengthen Head Start by extending its reach to younger children.

3. Begin a pilot lunch program to reach preschool children who now lack proper nourishment.

4. Create child and parent centers in areas of acute poverty to provide modern and comprehensive family and child development services.

5. Help the States train specialists--now in critically short supply--to deal with problems of children and youth.

6. Strengthen and modernize programs providing aid for children in poor families.

7. Increase Social Security payments for 3 million children, whose support has been cut off by the death, disability or retirement of their parents.

8. Expand our programs for early diagnosis and treatment of children with handicaps.

9. Carry forward our attack on mental retardation, which afflicts more than 125,000 children each year.

10. Launch a new pilot program of dental care for children.

11. Help States and communities across the nation plan and operate programs to prevent juvenile delinquents from becoming adult delinquents.

12. Enrich the summer months for needy boys and girls.


Head Start--a preschool program for poor children--has passed its first trials with flying colors. Tested in practice the past two years, it has proven worthy of its promise.

Through this program, hope has entered the lives of hundreds of thousands of children and their parents who need it the most.

The child whose only horizons were the crowded rooms of a tenement discovered new worlds of curiosity, of companionship, of creative effort. Volunteer workers gave thousands of hours to help launch poor children on the path toward self-discovery, stimulating them to enjoy books for the first time, watching them sense the excitement of learning.

Today Head Start reaches into three out of every four counties where poverty is heavily concentrated and into every one of the fifty states.

It is bringing more than education to children. Over half the youngsters are receiving needed dental and medical treatment. Hearing defects, poor vision, anemia, and damaged hearts are being discovered and treated.

In short, for poor children and their parents, Head Start has replaced the conviction of failure with the hope of success.

The achievements of Head Start must not be allowed to fade. For we have learned another truth which should have been self-evident--that poverty's handicaps cat'.not be easily erased or ignored when the door of first grade opens to the Head Start child.

Head Start occupies only part of a child's day and ends all too soon. He often returns home to conditions which breed despair. If these forces are not to engulf the child and wipe out the benefits of Head Start, more is required. Follow-Through is essential.

To fulfill the rights of America's children to equal educational opportunity the benefits of Head Start must be carried through to the early grades.

We must make special efforts to overcome the handicap of poverty by more individual attention, by creative courses, by more teachers trained in child development. This will not be easy. It will require careful planning and the full support of our communities, our schools and our teachers.

I am requesting appropriations to launch a "Follow-Through" program during the first school grades for children in areas of acute poverty.

The present achievements of Head Start serve as a measure of the distance we must still go:

--Three out of four Head Start children participate only in a summer program. The summer months are far too brief to close the gap separating the disadvantaged child from his more fortunate classmate.

--Only a small number of three-year-olds are now being reached. The impact of Head Start will be far more beneficial if it is extended to the earlier years.

--Head Start has dramatically exposed the nutritional needs of poverty's children. More than 1.5 million preschoolers are not getting the nourishing food vital to strong and healthy bodies.

To build on the experience already gained through Head Start: --I am requesting funds from the Congress and I am directing the Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity to.

1 Strengthen the lull year Head Start program.

2. Enlarge the number of three-year-olds who participate in Head Start.

3. Explore, through pilot programs, the effectiveness of this program on even younger children.

--I am recommending legislation to authorize a pilot program to provide school lunch benefits to needy preschoolers through Head Start and similar programs.


There is increasing evidence that a child's potential is shaped in infancy--and even during the pre-natal period. Early in life, a child may acquire the scars that will damage his later years at great cost to himself and to society. No serious effort in child development can ignore this critical period.

In every community, we must attack the conditions that dim life's promise. Today, the Federal Government and the states support a wide range of services for needy children and their parents.

But we have fallen short. Many of these services are fragmented. Many do not provide imaginative and inventive programs to develop a child's full potential. Others fail to enlist the adults of the community in enriching the lives of children and thereby enriching their own lives as well.

The task is to marshal these services--to develop within our comprehensive neighborhood centers a single open door through which child and parent can enter to obtain the help they need.

I am instructing the Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity to begin a pilot program of child and parent centers through its community action program in areas of acute poverty.

I am also instructing the Secretaries of Health, Education, and Welfare and Housing and Urban Development to support these centers with resources from related programs.

These child and parent centers would provide a wide range of benefits--as wide as the needs of the children and parents they must serve:

--health and welfare services.

--nutritious meals for needy preschoolers.

--counseling for parents in prenatal and infant care and instruction in household management, accident prevention and nutrition.

--day care for children under three years old.

--a training base for specialists in child development. A typical center might serve a slum neighborhood or a large housing project. Where possible, the centers would be affiliated with universities to provide greater research and experimentation in the fields of child development and education.


A wealthy and abundant America lags behind other modern nations in training qualified persons to work with children.

These workers are badly needed--not only for poor children but for all children. We need experts and new professionals in child care. We need more preschool teachers, social workers, librarians, and nurses.

New training efforts must be supported-for day care counselors, parent-advisors and health-visitors. We must train workers capable of helping children in neighborhood centers, in health clinics, in playgrounds and in child welfare agencies. Others must be prepared to support the teacher in the school and the mother in the home.

These jobs promise excellent opportunities for high school and grade school graduates, and for citizens who are retired. They can provide meaningful employment for persons who are themselves economically deprived. In helping needy young children achieve their potential, they can also help to develop themselves.

Two OEO programs, Foster Grandparents and Home Health Aides, have already proved the value of such services.

To help provide the trained workers needed for America's children, I recommend legislation to increase to 75 percent the Federal matching funds for State child welfare personnel, including training programs.

I am also directing the Secretaries of Labor and Health, Education, and Welfare, and the Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, to emphasize through adult education, vocational rehabilitation and other programs, training for "new careers" in child care.


Two weeks ago, I proposed legislation to bring the greatest improvement in living standards for those covered under Social Security since that historic Act was passed in 1935.

While this Program extends primarily to the older Americans, it also covers a child if the family breadwinner, who is under Social Security, dies, retires, or becomes' disabled.

Today, more than 3 million children receive Social Security payments. Their average benefit is only $52 a month.

To provide more adequate payments to these children, I recommend legislation to enlarge their benefits--with an average increase of at least 15 percent.


Enacted during the 1930's, the "Aid to Families with Dependent Children" (AFDC) program is a major source of help for the poor child. Under AFDC, Federal financial aid is provided to States to help needy families with children under 21.

There are serious shortcomings in this program:

--Only 3.2 million children received benefits last year.

--12 million children in families below the poverty line received no benefits.

--33 states do not even meet their own minimum standards for subsistence.

--Seven states offer a mother and three children $120 a month or less. Only 21 states have taken advantage of a 1962 law, expiring this year, allowing children with unemployed parents to receive financial assistance. Only 12 states have community work and training programs for unemployed parents to give them the skills needed to protect their family and earn a decent living. A number of states discourage parents from working by arbitrarily reducing welfare payments when they earn their first dollar.

To remedy these deficiencies and give the poorest children of America a fair chance, I recommend legislation to:

--Require each state to raise cash payments to the level the state itself sets as the minimum for subsistence, to bring these minimum standards up-to-date annually, and to maintain welfare standards at not less than two-thirds the level set for medical. assistance.

--Provide special federal financial assistance to help poorer states meet these new requirements.

--Make permanent the program for unemployed parents, which expires this year.

--Require each state receiving assistance to cooperate in making community work and training available.

--Require states to permit parents to earn $50 each month, with a maximum of $150 per family, without reduction in assistance payments.

Even well-established state welfare programs lack adequate services to protect children where there is physical abuse or neglect. There should be protection for the child, as well as help for the parent. Other state child welfare programs should expand day-care and homemaker services. New services must be tested, particularly for the mentally retarded, for the child requiring emergency shelter and for the child in the urban slum.

I recommend legislation to authorize a program of project grants to encourage states and local communities to develop new forms of child services.


Last year, nearly 400,000 needy mothers received care through maternal and child health nursing services. About three million children received public health nursing services, including almost 20% of all infants under one year of age.

But our public health record for children gives us little cause for complacency:

--At least ten other nations have lower infant mortality rates than the United States. Nearly 40,000 babies in America die each year who would be saved if our infant mortality rate were as low as Sweden's.

--Nearly one million pregnant women receive little or no prenatal care.

--More than 3.5 million poor children under 5 who need medical help do not receive it under public medical care programs.

Our whole society pays a toll for the unhealthy and crippled children who go without medical care: a total of incalculable human suffering, unemployment, rising rates of disabling disease, and expenditures for special education and institutions for the handicapped.

We have made hopeful beginnings toward reducing that toll.

Under the "Medicaid" program enacted in 1965, the 25 states now in partnership with the Federal Government will help pay hospital costs and doctors' bills for more than 3.5 million poor children this year. By next year, we expect 23 more states to join "Medicaid." I am requesting increased funds for the "Medicaid" program, including $221 million for medical care for needy children--an increase of some $100 million over last year.

We must also move in another direction. Nearly 500,000 youngsters now receive treatment under the Crippled Children's Program. But more than twice that number need help.

The problem is to discover, as early as possible, the ills that handicap our children. There must be a continuing follow-up and treatment so that handicaps do not go neglected.

We must enlarge our efforts to give proper eye care to a needy child. We must provide help to straighten a poor youngster's crippled limb before he becomes permanently disabled. We must stop tuberculosis in its first stages, before it causes serious harm.

I recommend legislation to expand the timely examination and treatment of an additional 500,000 poor children in Fiscal 1968.

In 1965 I proposed and the Congress enacted a special program to provide comprehensive health care for the poor child. Today, through the work of the Children's Bureau and local public health agencies, thousands of preschool and school children in more than 20 communities across America are being examined and treated. The early success of this program justifies its further expansion.

I am requesting the full authorization of $40 million for the comprehensive health service program for preschool and school children.

There are only 12,000 trained pediatricians and 13,000 obstetricians in the United States today--far too few to provide adequate medical care for all our children and mothers.

Our health goals for children cannot be met unless we develop new patterns of health care. This will require the great energy and skill of the American medical profession. New types of health workers must be trained to help our doctors do more. We must use more effectively the health manpower we have. Above all, the health profession should be encouraged to invent and innovate to give every child the medical care he needs.

I recommend legislation to authorize pilot centers this year to provide development in child health care, to train health workers, to test new methods and to provide care lot 180,000 needy children and 10,000 mothers. These new centers will be associated, wherever possible, with medical universities or neighborhood health centers. They will:

--Train new types of health workers to assist the pediatrician and obstetrician.

--Design and develop more efficient methods and techniques of health care delivery.

--provide needed maternal and child health care.

In addition, I am directing the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare to allocate increased funds to help train more pediatricians, obstetricians and family doctors.


Each year more than 125,000 infants are born mentally retarded.

This dread disability strikes rich families and poor. The tragedy of mental retardation affects the child, the parents and the entire community.

In 1958, the late Congressman from Rhode Island, John E. Fogarty, introduced legislation which launched our attack on mental retardation.

For the past 3 years wc have intensified that attack on all fronts--in prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, employment, recreation services.

But today, America still lacks trained workers and community facilities to carry on the fight.

I recommend legislation to:

--Provide, for the first time, Federal support to assist the staffing of community mental retardation centers.

--Extend Federal support for the construction of university and community centers for the mentally retarded.


Nearly two out of three disadvantaged children between the ages of 5 and 14 have never visited a dentist. They have five times more decayed teeth than their more fortunate classmates.

To begin meeting the dental needs of poor children, I recommend legislation to:

--Authorize a pilot program of dental care for 100,000 children in areas of acute poverty.

--Provide training for dental assistants to help bring care to schools and other community agencies.

--Explore better methods of furnishing care.


ACT OF 1967

Youth can mean high spirits, great ambitions, wide intellectual interests, constructive group activities and the exciting tests of physical and mental power.

But too often it means failure in school, drop-outs, the emptiness of unplanned days, joblessness, flights from a broken home, and trouble with the police.

The rapid urbanization of our nation and the sharply growing numbers of young people can mean new vigor and opportunity for our society--or new crime problems and more wasted lives.

This Nation has already committed itself to enrich the lives of our young people and to free the disadvantaged from the waste and boredom that would otherwise characterize their lives:

--The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and the Higher Education Act of 1965 are greatly expanding educational opportunities.

--The Upward Bound Program is preparing disadvantaged boys and girls for entry into college.

--Work-study programs, grants, loans and scholarships are helping to provide an education for young people unable to afford it.

--The Manpower Training and Development Act, the lob Corps and the Neighborhood Youth Corps are providing needed job skills.

Despite these achievements, much remains to be done to fulfill our commitment to young Americans. In later Messages, I will propose additional measures that will assist young Americans--in education, in health, and in special employment programs.

But today, I propose to deal with the young American who is delinquent or potentially delinquent. Too many schools and agencies close their doors and minds to a young person with serious behavioral problems, and then pass him on to sterner but frequently less effective authorities. Most youth who commit delinquent acts ultimately grow into responsible adults. But if a youth behaves badly enough or is unlucky enough to enter the courts and correctional institutions, he is more likely to continue in criminal activity as an adult.

The past five years of experience under the Juvenile Delinquency Act and the report of the National Crime Commission have shown the need for new approaches for dealing with delinquent and potentially delinquent youth:

--Special community-based diagnostic and treatment services for youth in trouble.

--The strengthening of ties between the community and the correction and probation system.

--The construction of modern correctional facilities employing the most advanced methods of rehabilitation.

We must pursue a course designed not merely to reduce the number of delinquents. We must increase the chances for such young people to lead productive lives.

For the delinquent and potentially delinquent youth, we must offer a New Start. We must insure that the special resources and skills essential for their treatment and rehabilitation are available. Because many of these young men and women live in broken families, burdened with financial and psychological problems, a successful rehabilitation program must include family counseling, vocational guidance, education and health services. It must strengthen the family and the schools. It must offer courts an alternative to placing young delinquents in penal institutions.

I recommend the Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Act of 1967.

This Act would be administered by the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. It would provide:

--90% Federal matching grants to assist states and local communities to develop plans to improve their juvenile courts and correction systems.

--50% Federal matching grants for the construction of short-term detention and treatment facilities for youthful offenders in or near their communities.

--Flexible Federal matching grants to assist local communities to operate special diagnostic and treatment programs for juvenile delinquents and potential delinquents.

--Federal support for research and experimental projects in juvenile delinquency.

The problems of troubled youth do not yield to easy solution. They must be pursued on a broad front. Thus, states and communities must be encouraged to develop comprehensive strategies for coping with these problems.

The facilities they build should be modern and innovative, like the "half-way" houses already proven successful in practice. These facilities should provide a wide range of community-based treatment and rehabilitation services for youthful offenders.

New methods of rehabilitation--establishing new ties between the correctional institution, the job market, and the supporting services a delinquent youth needs when he returns to the community--should be tested.

Local agencies, public and private, should be assisted in providing special diagnostic and treatment services for youth with serious behavioral problems. Other Federal programs for medical care, education, and manpower training should be supplemented to provide the intensive services needed to assist delinquent and potentially delinquent youth to become productive citizens. These efforts must first be concentrated in poor neighborhoods where the risk of delinquency is highest.

These steps must be taken now. But at the same time we must continue and expand our research effort. We must learn why so many young people get into trouble and how best to help them avoid it. To do this, we will look to universities and individuals, state and local agencies, and other institutions capable of adding to our knowledge and improving our methods and practices in this vital area.


Last year, summer took on a new and brighter meaning for millions of needy young citizens:

-Head Start served 570,000 preschoolers.

--The Elementary and Secondary Education Act provided funds to bring remedial courses and day camps to two and a half million children.

--Upward Bound enabled 25,000 high school students to live on college campuses and gain new learning experiences.

--The Youth Opportunity Campaign found more than a million jobs for 16- to-21-year olds.

--The Neighborhood Youth Corps offered summer work to 210,000 young people.

--Community Action and other OEO programs, such as Operation Champ, offered recreation to nearly one million children. This summer we can do more.

We can enable additional schools and playgrounds to remain open when vacation comes.

We can, with the help of public-spirited local organizations, bring fresh air and cool streams to the slum child who has known only a sweltering tenement and who must sleep on a crowded fire escape to get relief from the heat.

We can enlist the volunteer help of many citizens who want to give needy children a happy summer.

To further these purposes, I will:

--Establish a Cabinet-level Council headed by the Vice President to promote Summer Youth Opportunities.

--Direct this Council to make public facilities available to provide camping opportunities for additional needy children this summer.

--Request the Council to call on public and private groups to sponsor and operate these camps and to enlist college students and others to work in them.

--Request the Council to call a national "Share Your Summer" conference to encourage more fortunate families to open their vacation homes to disadvantaged children for part of the summer. In addition, I recommend legislation to provide funds for the construction of summer camp facilities for at least 100,000 children in 1968. These camps would be built only where there is an agreement with a private institution or local government agency to operate and finance them.

I am directing every federal agency to strengthen its programs which provide summer employment, education, recreation and health services. These summer programs must become a permanent feature in the year-round effort to develop our children and teenagers for responsible citizenship.

I call upon every city and local community to help make summers happy and productive for the youth of America. It should not take an Act of Congress to turn on a fire hydrant sprinkler, to keep a swimming pool open a little longer, or provide lights and supervision for a summer playground.


No ventures hold more promise than these: curing a sick child, helping a poor child through Head Start, giving a slum child a summer of sunlight and pleasure, encouraging a teenager to seek higher learning.

I believe that the Congress recognizes the urgency--and the great potential--of programs which open new opportunity to our children and young people.

But beyond these beginnings, there is much to do.

We look toward the day when every child, no matter what his color or his family's means, gets the medical care he needs, starts school on an equal footing with his classmates, seeks as much education as he can absorb--in short, goes as far as his talents will take him.

We make this commitment to our youth not merely at the bidding of our conscience. It is practical wisdom. It is good economics. But, most important, as Franklin D. Roosevelt said thirty years ago, because "the destiny of American youth is the destiny of America."

We can shape that destiny if we act now and if we bring to this task the energy and the vision it demands.

The White House
February 8, 1967

Note: For statements or remarks upon signing related legislation, see Items 292, 378, 517.
Citation: Lyndon B. Johnson: "Special Message to the Congress Recommending a 12-Point Program for America's Children and Youth," February 8, 1967. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=28438.
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